STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: And that is all for us tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. And "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening to you, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Steve. Thank you so much.
Tonight, we`re covering new developments in the Capitol Hill showdown. President Trump claiming he refuse to comply with subpoenas. Democrats say they have a plan to deal with it.
And later tonight, my breakdown on how Attorney General Bill Barr has not told the whole truth about Mueller`s findings. Why that matters going forward and what can be done about it.
Also, Congressman Eric Swalwell making his first appearance on The Beat as a presidential candidate. That`s later in the show. So, we have a lot.
But we begin with the President of the United States announcing his opposition to lawful subpoenas from Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re fighting all the subpoenas. look, these aren`t like, impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020. The only way they can luck out is by constantly going after me on nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s Trump`s take. Here`s Bob Mueller`s. Because he ended his report by intoning, "Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president`s corrupt exercise of the powers of office with accords to our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law."
Now Congress uses those powers on a spectrum. It can do nothing, and that happens more often when the same party controls both branches of government, or it can use the oversight functions to hold the executive accountable with hearings, funding measures or the subpoenas, or over here, if you want to think of it this way.
Over here in the special cases, it can apply its congressional removal powers, impeaching federal officials for as the Constitution provides, treason, bribery or high crimes.
Note tonight, that Donald Trump`s seemingly aggressive position against Congress using its middle, or lesser powers, may ultimately provoke some members to use Congress`s greater powers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If President Trump takes on Nancy Pelosi over whether he`s going to respond to her subpoenas, I will put my money on Nancy Pelosi every time.
SEN. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): We realize impeachment is a very serious thing and we`re going to do it, do whatever we have to do. But first we`re going to do our research. And we`re going to do it exceedingly well.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): We`re going to have to do it. We`re going to have to impeach. I just wish it was sooner than later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And Hillary Clinton is coming out tonight and she`s calling for a middle ground, at least for right now. "Congress should hold substantive hearings that bill on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps," she writes. "Not jump straight to an up or down vote on impeachment."
Note that the administration is trying to forward requests for truthful testimony here about matters that range from following up on the Mueller probe like this appeal to get star witness Don McGahn in front of Congress, to totally separate matters like national security oversight into whether the White House mangled the clearance process.
To glowing past the deadline for completely different matters like Donald Trump`s taxes which are provided for that the administration has to submit in accordance with federal law.
To another, trying to prevent administration officials from giving basic facts about a Trump change to the census that might rewire federal funding for decades.
When you take it all together it`s only the White House that wants you to believe something that`s not true tonight. To believe that this is all about the fallout from the Mueller report or potentially sour grapes.
What we just walked through are a whole lot of things that any Congress any coequal branch will be working on in oversight.
Let me welcome Kurt Andersen, the author of "Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire" and host of public radio show studio 360. And Sophia Nelson who served as counsel to the Republicans House oversight committee and has a lot of relevant experience. Although despite your GOP history, you are known to be somewhat critical of the president. Thanks to both for being here.
SOPHIA NELSON, MSNBC COMMENTATOR: Yes.
MELBER: Big picture before we go to the law. Let`s go to the president. Which Donald Trump are we seeing in these responses?
KURT ANDERSEN, HOST, STUDIO 360: We`re seeing the lifelong Donald Trump. We`re seeing the Donald Trump, whose whole M.O. as a businessman, as a litigant in 4,000 odd lawsuits, as a performer, is to fight, to refuse, to deny, to enable.
This is what he does. So, he is like a pig in muck in this situation. Subpoena that he can refuse and deny are his thing. It`s why he`s in the WWE hall of fame.
MELBER: You`re saying ignoring lawful requests is sort of his thing.
ANDERSEN: Until he does -- until he settles the Trump university suit. Until he -- until he decides, OK, move on. But yes. This is, the oversight various congressional committees, House committees` requests refusing is just his act. And he`ll happily continue doing that until whatever happens. The federal Marshalls come to the Oval Office. We don`t know.
NELSON: But Ari, if I may, he`s not the Donald Trump of the past. He`s the president of the United States of manager. He is the executive under article II. Congress has article 1 power as you know, and they have a right to oversight. In fact, they are required to conduct such oversight.
For the president to spew everything he`s been spewing on Twitter over the last 48 hours is awful. He does not take his office seriously. He does not have a clue what the Constitution says. That became very apparent to me. I knew it before but it`s become very apparent.
As he says he`s going to go to the courts to get him out of this, then work that way, Mr. President.
So, I think that the Donald Trump we`re seeing now yes, is someone who we`ve seen before but he has no clue that his office requires different conduct and that he can and will be held accountable by the Congress. And that he can`t just blow it off as he has other things.
MELBER: Well, it is amazing, Kurt. You`re here partly because you`ve tangled with Donald Trump long before he was seen as a potential president. Didn`t you guys at Spy magazine you wrote him a check once for a penny to see if he cash --
ANDERSEN: Well, we wrote him a check for many amounts down to 13 cents and he cash to everyone.
MELBER: So, let me take you -- let me take you in this direction. What does it mean that after all this, and 23 months, and his clear fanatic obsession with Mueller, which we now know documented to a degree that he sought to oust Mueller and was warned that would be the end of everything? And people were calling their own lawyers and to use the president`s unfortunate nomenclature "rotting him out to Mueller for that.
Those illegal unconstitutional massacres, what Don McGahn called the crazy expletive. What does it mean after all this, the New York Times reports that Donald Trump still isn`t reading the Mueller report? That he is going to take the cliff notes version from coverage. I mean, I`m glad if people rely on us.
MELBER: But Donald Trump not reading the Mueller report. What does that tell you?
ANDERSEN: Well, that he doesn`t read, for starters, and again, that to my previous point that he has one switch, one position. It`s if you said anything bad about me, I hate you.
But it`s interesting, isn`t it, about the Mueller report. That in the same day that he says it, he said, tweeted this morning, as he tweets practically every day. That it was angry Democrats that the Mueller report, that exonerated him totally.
In the same day in which Kellyanne Conway, his presidential counselor says, no, the Mueller report was a nonpartisan fair-minded exoneration. Therefore, Congress doesn`t need to continue its oversight. The having it both ways on the same day is extraordinary.
MELBER: Well, and the Mueller report was not written in its core allegations and evidence by Bob Mueller or by the prosecutors. Something that I think gets lost in these times, although facts do matter, and we`ve been documenting it in our coverages.
The Mueller report was written chiefly by Steve Bannon and Chris Christie and Stephen Miller and Don McGahn. It was written by all of the under-oath testimony that was corroborated and deemed credible and some of it was thrown out when it was not. Cohen was cited less than others.
But that`s who wrote the bulk of the stories. As well as all the documentary evidence where the White House at times was owning itself.
So, as you say, there are layers and layers to those misrepresentations. And then the reason this is so damaging is precisely because of who it relies on.
Both of you stay with me. I want to add a little bit of D.C. to this panel. Natasha Bertrand, a national security correspondent for Politico, and joining me for the first time, J.W. Verret, a former Donald Trump transition staffer who`s made waves by announcing that in his view, the Mueller report has changed everything and he actually believes it`s time for impeachment. Thank to both of you for joining our discussion.
J.W. VERRET, FORMER TRUMP TRANSITION STAFFER: Thank you.
MELBER: J.W., what moved you from being someone that was sympathetic to Donald Trump to the point of trying to help him transition into office to turning to impeachment as a remedy based on what you learned in the report?
VERRET: Well, I think the Mueller report clearly documents up to 12 cases of obstruction of justice involving an investigation that in part linked to allegations of treason. So, it`s squarely within the provision for impeachment in the Constitution.
And frankly, what disappointed me this week is, I`ve come out, I`ve gone on a limb here, I think it`s fair to say. And the Democratic leadership in House is very wary. I hear a lot of political talk. We`re not talking enough about federalist paper number 65. We should be talking about more of that rather than speculating on politics. So, I hope we get a chance to do that here, Ari.
MELBER: J.W. Verret dropping some founders` bars. I love the Federalist papers. I read in your piece that you point to Don McGahn as one of those key credible witnesses. You say "The focus should be on guiding policy decisions to construct a decision. And the man -- and the direction of the man who I most admire was McGahn for the first White House counsel."
What does it tell you that he is cited more than anyone else and that he was moved to pack his belongings and call his personal criminal defense attorney because he was worried that Donald Trump was asking him to do things that would land him or potentially ultimately both of them in jail?
VERRET: Yes, that`s a bad sign. And don`t forget, so as we`re reading and I hope -- I hope a lot of liberals who were talking about the rule of law right now start reading the Federalist papers. This is a great opportunity to do that and they are going to learn things that I think it will be helpful to them.
One is them is that the founders intended, James Madison talked about the improper removal of officers as a potential high crime and misdemeanor that could be impeachable. That`s all about Comey.
So, it should be about the Constitution and the rule of law. It shouldn`t be about political calculus. That`s what`s been disappointing to me. But the other thing I think everyone is engaged in now and I think the people will catch up, is just the exercise of reminding them that impeachment is not some magic word of a determination of guilt. It`s the beginning of a process.
No president has ever been found guilty in a Senate trial. We have two presidential impeachments. That doesn`t mean it`s not an appropriate exercise for the House, even if you think the Senate is not going to vote your way in the trial.
MELBER: Yes. Let`s take that point to Natasha, which is where some of the structural analysis of what`s happening here meets the raw political realities in the town that you`re in.
Because, Natasha, as you know, if you applied the way some Democrats and certainly Speaker Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have talked to other avenues, you wouldn`t have a ground swell for an early Barack Obama candidacy. Because you`d say, well, the predictions are, it`s not clear that person would not become president.
You wouldn`t have AOC as a member of Congress because the statistical political predictions about defeating an incumbent -- Mr. Crowley was number four in leadership in a blue city, would have told you it`s unlikely.
I guess I would put it as nicely as I can as a news anchor, why the heck should it matter what people in D.C. predict the politics of impeachment are? Shouldn`t it be about whether it`s right or not? And if it`s not right, then that`s the reason not to do it.
NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this is of course the debate that`s raging among the Democrats right now. And actually, some people might say that it`s not actually raging that it`s just a few very loud voices who are calling for impeachment and it`s the majority of Democrats, mainstream Democrats who are saying now, let`s hold off. Let`s hold hearings. Let`s examine the evidence even more.
And then once public opinion maybe starts to shift a bit more into, you know, being in favor of an impeachment proceeding then we will start to discuss launching an impeachment proceeding. But you know, the argument on the other side --
MELBER: Well, let me ask you about that because that goes to your theory of politics, Natasha. I mean, that goes back to every grassroots debate you ever have, is do you see politics and political figures, be they in office or out, as thermostats or thermometers. I mean, are they taking the temperature? After all of this isn`t it the temperature out there that a lot of people who are concerned about Donald Trump? What more temperature taking do they need to do?
BERTRAND: Right. And the criticism -- I want to be very careful about how I have this discussion as a journalist.
But the criticism has been that the, you know, Republicans have been playing politics. And that the Democrats have tried to put themselves beyond politics. So they`re acting in a very hypocritical way by making all of these political strategic calculations in a way that of course, is going against the very thing that most Democrats voted them into office in November was about, which is holding the president accountable.
And after the Mueller report came out, it seems like the Democrats just didn`t really have a cohesive strategy here to deal with everything that was in it. Maybe because they didn`t realize how bad it would be for the president.
But you know, the approach that Nancy Pelosi seems to be taking now is the Nixon approach where they started launching hearings around May of `73. And it took about a year of those hearings for them to start saying, OK, we`re threatening you with impeachment and then Nixon of course resigned roughly two weeks later. But that seems to be what they`re waiting for, for public opinion to shift here. But of course --
MELBER: Right. And let me --
BERTRAND: -- an impeachment proceeding might do the shifting.
MELBER: Yes, exactly. Who is going to do the shifting? Let me bring Kurt in. I mean, I think for Democrats who have said in Congress, we`re waiting for the evidence. Well now there is voluminous evidence.
There is reporting today out of Washington, some Democrats are saying what Trump is tweeting now and doing now could be a new witness tampering charge. OK. But what do you do with the evidence you have? And don`t you owe the public a discussion of well, it`s not enough, we`re not doing it where we are.
ANDERSEN: Well, and there is the moral high ground of by God, it`s the rule of law and if it`s impeachable, we should impeach him.
However, I also think there is a political argument for taking that position. Which is to say, as William Goldman famously said about the movie business, nobody knows anything. Nobody knows what`s going to work when you open a movie.
I really, really honestly think that`s true of the political calculus about what an impeachment hearing, beginning an impeachment hearing, let alone, impeachment would or wouldn`t do to help or hurt Democrats or trump. I don`t think anybody knows. So, I would say that there is political argument for the impeachment without regard for politics because the -- you don`t know the politics.
NELSON: See, where I`m struggling is this isn`t a political argument. This has to be about the Constitution and what is the best avenue for the Republic to keep standing.
One of the things that people forget about the founders and your first guest is it a J was right. First of all -
MELBER: J.W. but I think sometimes he goes by J dub.
NELSON: Well, J, first of all --
MELBER: Is that true?
VERRET: Well, a big, bad J. dub.
MELBER: What was it?
VERRET: The big bad K dub.
MELBER: Hey, hey.
NELSON: Yes. J., thank you for your courage because you did take a courage to stand and federal 65 is a very good place to start. But what I want to say is what people forget is that the founders believed in a moral and virtuous government or moral and virtuous leaders. And we can debate what they meant by those terms.
But certainly, the conduct outlined in the Mueller report, certainly the conduct we`ve seen from this president for the last two years, but particularly the last 48 hours or so, does know fit in to the conduct that Lindsey Graham talked about. That was impeachable when it was Bill Clinton.
I worked on government reform and oversight during those days, during the Clinton years with the subpoenas flying, and the talk about the Clintons doing all kinds of thing that were wrong. And they cooperated. For the most part the Clinton White House turned over the documents. They came under oath, they testified, et cetera.
So, I just want to say that it`s not about the politics. It has to be about what`s right for the republic and that`s what it has to be about.
MELBER: And J.W., before I let you go, your first time on The Beat. But what is the reception you`ve gotten for what you`ve said. Have you heard from any other conservatives or Republicans privately who agree with you?
VERRET: Yes. I`ve got my inbox has been -- my e-mail inbox has been very interesting this week from I guess, let`s say the grassroots Trump supporters. But for the most part, I`ve gotten a lot of support and the Republicans I know personally have all been very supportive privately.
And one thing I`ll add too, impeachments is. It`s a whole different thing when you start appearing before congressional committees and Trump says, my DOJ won`t go after you. And you start thinking, what about the next DOJ for non-compliance with the subpoena? What about losing my BAR license? It`s a whole different ball game in terms of finding facts.
MELBER: Yes. I think with finding facts and also taking things up out of the footnotes and presenting with the public. Again, if the Congress thinks that`s valid. In other words, the Democrats have the position of having run on this and made a big deal about it, is it something they want to put forward in a fact-finding process?
In fact, then you start to end up back where Donald Trump started this, at least this segment of our broadcast, which is, all right. Leave it alone and move on to other things. Certainly, it shouldn`t be endless subpoenas without an actual plan.
Kurt Andersen, Sophia Nelson, Natasha Bertrand, and big J. dub Verret, thanks to each of you.
VERRET: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, we have the impeachment debate also rocking the 2020 race. Congressman Eric Swalwell is with me live for his first candidate -- presidential candidate interview on The Beat.
Later, Attorney General Barr, I`m going to put it straight. He did not tell the whole truth about the Mueller report and that means I have serious questions for him tonight about how he should be treated going forward.
My special report ahead.
And later, something happening that actually shines a light on income equality in America. It`s an important story and we bring it to you with a pivotal guest. Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, live with me later this hour.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching The Beat on MSNBC.
MELBER: The Democratic presidential field keeps growing and Congressman Eric Swalwell has been at the center of so many issues these days with the Russia probe, given his perch on the House intelligence judiciary committee.
He joins me for his first interview on The Beat since declaring his candidacy. Good evening, Congressman. Why are you run --
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hey, Ari. What`s happening?
MELBER: What`s happening we`ve got a lot going on. Tell me why you`re running for president, sir.
SWALWELL: Yes. Ari, I`ve been in Congress for seven years now. I`ve led a group called Future Forum. I`ve taken our youngest members of Congress across the country. I see the hollowed-out communities. I see the people who are just running in place and they see on everything they care about from ending gun violence to getting rid of the student loan debt they have, to having health care coverage, that nothing gets done.
We just go crisis to crisis. When they`re looking for us to go big on the issues, be bold with the solutions and do good again in the way that we govern.
I`m going to do that. that`s how I lived mu life. I was the first in my family to go to college. You`ve seen hard work that up. I`m the father of two kids under two, paying off my student loan debt myself. And I think you need someone who can see you, hear you, and be for you.
MELBER: And it sounds like a vile. A lot of viewers and a lot of Democrats at this point know you from your role I mentioned on intel and judiciary on all this Russia stuff.
And one of the questions I think that comes out of that is whether you were out too far before we got the Mueller report evidence on the issue of collusion. As I think viewers know Mueller used a legal term and did not find a chargeable Russia Trump conspiracy.
You talk about collusion and you`ve also -- I want to play this for you.
MELBER: Talked about it pretty directly as if there was a personal link, a personal activity by Donald Trump established. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SWALWELL: All the arrows continue to point to a personal, political, and financial relationship that Donald Trump had with the Russians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe the president right now has been an agent of the Russians?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m still not hearing the evidence that he`s an agent of Russia.
SWALWELL: Yes, I think it`s pretty clear. it`s almost hiding in plain sight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in the 2016 campaign?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe the president himself colluded with the Russians?
SWALWELL: yes. There were certainly, evidence of collusion. Not evidence that met the beyond the reasonable doubt standard. But this president in no way is cleared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you accept the findings in the Mueller report that do not support some of those claims?
SWALWELL: Well, I accept that. I probably should have been out there a little bit earlier because who knew how many links there were 200 pages of links. I accept also, Ari, that prior Congresses did not have an imagination to see a president or a campaign have so many concerning conducts and not write laws to prohibit it.
But it didn`t meet the standard beyond a reasonable doubt. But here`s what we know. The Russians helped Donald Trump.
MELBER: Sure. But to be clear.
MELBER: So, you`re no longer maintaining that he is as effectively a, quote, "Russian asset."
SWALWELL: No. I think he acts on Russia`s behalf. And I challenge him to show me otherwise.
MELBER: Well, I guess that`s what I`m saying. You accept the findings or not. I mean, one could argue that Barack Obama at times was, again, what does the language mean? Barack Obama was advocating on behalf of Cuba`s interests, if some are critical of his Cuba policy.
MELBER: You clearly in those quotes, though, were discussing it at the level of a financial link or a conspiratorial --
MELBER: -- conspiratorial collaboration which Mueller`s evidence doesn`t support. So, I want to find out do you support that.
SWALWELL: There`s evidence of collusion and coordination there. It doesn`t go beyond a reasonable doubt but that doesn`t mean that this is a good guy.
I mean, we know the Russians helped him. He asked the Russians to help him. The campaign expected to benefit from it. What we don`t know yet is why won`t he show us his taxes, why won`t he show us his finances.
And look, Ari, if this guy is able to be blackmailed by a porn star, how do we know he`s not going to be blackmailed by Vladimir Putin? And that`s why you need to understand --
MELBER: Well, you`re asking big -- and this is the last question I`ll do on this, then I want to move on. I appreciate you being here to take the colloquy.
MELBER: Some candidates, you know there are some people in Congress we can`t even get on. So, I appreciate it. But the last question I`m pressing you on though, is yes, you could ask all those tough questions. But are you or are you not maintaining the asset theory even though a 400-plus page report from Mueller does not document that?
SWALWELL: I think he acts on Russia`s behalf too many times, and he puts their interests ahead of our interest. He pulled us out of Syria, he wants to reduce the role of NATO. He continues to pull back sanction son Russia. He won`t tell us what he talked about with Vladimir Putin. And he won`t tell us anything about his finances with the Russians. He acts guilty, Ari.
MELBER: Moving to other topics, and I want to get you on the record on that. Gun violence is something you`re hammering as a concern. How do you fix it? And is that an issue that you think actually distinguishes you in the Democratic primary? Or is that something you guys are all agreement -- have agreement on?
SWALWELL: I`m going to be the champion to end gun violence. And in my first 100 days I`m going to ask Congress to pass background checks. We did that in the House already. We need the Senate to actually force a vote now.
I`m going to ban and buyback 15 million assault weapons and I know most Americans are with me. We saw it done in Australia. It was just done in New Zealand that all reduced the victims in mass shootings. Take the most dangerous weapons from the most dangerous people.
And invest in gang violence prevention programs in the cities where you have victims whose names we never hear and stories we`re never told. It just takes leadership, Ari.
And what I found I think I`ve cracked the code with the NRA. They are a vocal tweeting, bullying minority. And most people, the moms and the students and the parents, they want sensible gun violence laws. They`re with us. We just need a leadership in the White House to do that.
MELBER: I just want to get you on accountability because we talked about the Russia section in the Mueller report. There`s also the question about what to do about the documented evidence of obstruction.
MELBER: Senator Kamala Harris who, I think she might be considered ahead of you right now. Do you agree with that?
SWALWELL: Yes, sure. It`s early. It`s early.
MELBER: Yes, early. Well, here`s what she has to say about accountability for the president. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is an investigation that has been conducted which has produced evidence that tells us that this president and his administration engaged in obstruction of justice. I believe Congress should take the stepped toward impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you agree with her? Or is that too far right now?
SWALWELL: We`re taking those steps. We`re on that road, Ari. You know, I just happen to be one of the only candidates in the field that has to try the damn case being on the judiciary committee.
SWALWELL: So, when I was a prosecutor, and I went to court, my pencils were sharpened, my subpoenas were ready, my witnesses were in the waiting room, and the exhibits were ready to be presented because I only got one shot.
And it`s not a road we want to go down but it`s a road that we may have to go down to save the democracy. And hey, Ari, as I`ve said trust your own judgment, live with it and love it. And I trust that that`s the right way to do this.
MELBER: Wow, a little bit of -- a little bit of nods right in the middle of the interview. Impressive. Let me see if we can get you on a couple more issues before I let you go. With something special we like to do around here, the lightning round.
The best thing you can say about Donald Trump.
SWALWELL: He`s not a quitter.
MELBER: Anything you think about Bill Barr.
SWALWELL: He`s the president`s lawyer. And he should be America`s lawyer.
MELBER: Working with Mitch McConnell if you became president.
SWALWELL: I`m going to do everything I can to beat Mitch McConnell as our nominee. No, it`s not going to happen.
MELBER: Best album, workout song, the music that pumps you up to do -- to do what you`re doing every day.
SWALWELL: You`re going to hate this answer, Ari, but I`ve come to love country.
SWALWELL: So, I`m on a -- I`m on a country kick right now. So --
MELBER: I don`t hate it at all. What`s your -- what`s your go-to country?
SWALWELL: Well, there`s -- you`re going to kill me for this, Ari. I love Eric Church. I love Darius Rucker. I`d love Rodney Atkins. He`s a Republican but yes, I`m a country-music Democrat.
MELBER: What about like a little achy-breaky heart or anything.
SWALWELL: Oh yes, I love Taylor Swift when she was doing country. I wish she`d come back.
MELBER: Taylor, early pre-pop Taylor. It was a little more Nashville, sure. Before we really let you go and I know that you might go full Mueller on us and go no comment, but we do have a photograph that is public. This is you, I believe, senior yearbook. What was going on here?
SWALWELL: You know, Ari, a lot of people experimented with bleach in high school. That just happened to be the way I you know, used it.
MELBER: I think it`s great. I think it shows people change how they look over time. And you mentioned bleach, always better to bleach your hair than to bleach your server or your else, Congressman.
SWALWELL: That`s right. That`s right.
MELBER: OK, from pressing on the conspiracy issues to where you fit in the race, to gun control, to bleaching, to gnaws, to country. Congressman Eric Swalwell, I hope you come back. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.
SWALWELL: Thanks so much, Ari.
MELBER: I appreciate it, sir. When we are back in just 30 seconds, I`m going to give you my views of why Bill Barr didn`t tell the whole truth and what to do about it.
MELBER: The Justice Department`s Mueller era formally began in May 2017 when Rod Rosenstein appointed Bob Mueller to probe Russian interference and related matters, and it informally ended you might say, last Thursday when the new Attorney General Bill Barr released a redacted report of Mueller`s findings and added his own views of the probe and what Bill Barr thinks it means.
It was Barr speaking unilaterally just like he did through those series of controversial letters that failed to tell the whole truth about Mueller`s findings. The news tonight is that Barr will face Congress in a setting where he can be cross-examined on May 1st and he`ll no longer be able to dodge basic questions like he has in past hearings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: I don`t have a clue as to what would be in the report. The report could end up being you know, not very big. I don`t know what`s going to be in the report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He didn`t know. But when Barr did find out what was in the report, he didn`t simply relay the key findings to Congress as the rules require. This is important. He weaponized his advanced knowledge in several key ways. First, he gave those early copies to the White House and the president`s personal defense attorneys. Second, he began a campaign of leaked by letter that did not tell the whole truth about Mueller`s findings. And then third, he doubled down on that selective disclosure in his unusual Thursday press conference.
A chorus of legal experts and critics have begun to say that each of those moves was either improper or misleading. And to be clear, Mr. Barr`s apparent goal was not to change Mueller`s actual findings. That would be worse. There`s no evidence of that type of interference right now.
Barr`s apparent goal was to change the perception, your perception of Mueller`s findings, to manipulate what people in D.C. said and maybe did, the media perception and then ultimately the public perception. But that strategy will not work if people understand what Barr did wrong on this case let alone going forward.
So to prevent it next time, let`s take a look. Barr`s first move was cherry-picking partial sentences from Mueller to stoke the public impression that Mueller found no conspiracy in that four-page letter and could not make up his mind an obstruction.
Now, as anyone can now read, Mueller`s findings actually showed at least five instances of obstruction which Congress could rule on. But Barr`s misleading version was repeated by some and political and media circles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED HENRY, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: This letter spells out that the president did not commit obstruction of justice according to the Attorney General of the United States William Barr.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Barr is saying is that it`s not impossible. You can actually still obstruct something that wasn`t original crime, but in this case, there`s really not the facts for that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mueller decided it seems to me that as the Special Counsel, he didn`t have the position to make the mammoth decision about whether the president could be indicted. He punted to the Attorney General. He let the Attorney General make this decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A newscaster saying Mueller punted to the Attorney General. That wasn`t true. Barr wasn`t telling the whole truth. And there were people in Washington and elsewhere who made the mistake of just echoing what Barr said as the truth when we had enough evidence that first night of that letter to be more skeptical.
We all knew the DOJ doesn`t allow in dining a president. I`m sure you`ve seen that in coverage. We all knew presidential obstruction is dealt with historically by the House. And we could see that that short letter from Barr was really boiled down his views, not Mueller`s findings.
And over here in those first hours when Barr released that letter that Sunday night in March, that`s what we reported.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Barr stating his own view tonight that he thinks his boss Donald Trump did not obstruct justice.
The questions around presidential obstruction as a potential high crime are generally dealt with or as lawyers would say adjudicated by the House, not by the president`s own Justice Department.
These four pages that Barr wrote, they don`t have a single full sentence quoting the Mueller report at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Each of those were from the first hours of our coverage. Now tonight I can show you on Amazon it is one of the most popular books this week the Mueller report so people are reading it and it reveals obstruction evidence, and it notes in the Mueller report that Congress is the one that does this. It has the authority. It adjudicates presidential obstruction issues.
And that`s key because it shows Barr`s personal opinion that he doesn`t think his boss committed obstruction, it`s not what Mueller found. It wasn`t even very relevant. Barr had claimed that he read the report and decided there was no obstruction without reference to DOJ rules against indicting a president.
But in the first pages of Mueller`s obstruction section, right here he states the entire probe was based on the rule against indicting a president so they wouldn`t make a traditional prosecutorial judgment.
Now, even as the Mueller report came out and Barr knew that people would read Mueller`s evidence of Trump`s criminal intent, he still went out to the lectern and told America something that`s not true. That anger could be a mitigating factor for someone`s criminal obstruction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: As the special counsel`s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It`s time -- it`s time to really deal with that. There was so much happening over last week that I`m not sure Bill Barr got the full fact-checking needs. What you just heard there would be something you could hear from Rudy Giuliani. He could make that case even if it`s a week.
But Bill Barr is your attorney general. He was speaking about what he said Mueller found. He wasn`t freestyling an op-ed. And what did Mueller find, evidence of the president`s criminal intent not emotion, proof that Donald Trump went to lengths to cover his actions and asked aides to lie for him and asked aides to falsify records, many refused.
That`s why Mulder`s findings focus on signs at Trump knew what he was doing was improper, that he had the awareness that the direction to do those things could be seen as improper. And Mueller`s careful emphasis on probing Russia-Trump links was through the criminal standard of conspiracy not the lower looser standard of collusion.
And Barr had weeks to let that conspiracy point sink in but he came back to that lectern and stated a falsehood about Mueller`s findings to echo Donald Trump`s tweets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: The special counsel found no collusion by any Americans. There was, in fact, no collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Why would someone hold a press conference like that against the facts and the legal conclusion that anyone was going to be able to read the same day? Did you know that the answer may also be in this report? Because it busts Trump for making the unusual demand after he fired Comey that he demanded Rosenstein hold a presser to sell Trump`s cover story for firing Comey asking Rosenstein to do a press conference.
And Mueller writes Rosenstein responded that this was not a good idea because if the press asked him, he would tell the truth.
Wow. That`s one of those terrible parts of this report that hasn`t even got much attention. But that`s Bob Mueller quoting a Trump appointee who also oversaw Bob Mueller to state the fact that the President was demanding that he Rosenstein lie at a press conference at the Justice Department and Rosenstein refused. In fact, he then doubled down by appointing Bob Mueller.
But I have to point out tonight have we come full circle because we`ve read the report so how can you not see the echoes of that Trump request to Rosenstein in Barr`s press conference where Barr stated those known falsehoods to defend Trump. And as you look at that controversial scene, let me read the passage again from Mueller.
"Rosenstein responded, if the press asked him he would tell the truth." That`s why that presser didn`t initially happen. What was Rosenstein thinking during this presser having overseen the probe that he knew Barr was not telling the truth about, and the collusion conspiracy details that Barr wasn`t telling the truth about or on the rules in dining a president standing there knowing that this is what Donald Trump asks of his Justice Department officials?
This is the evidence that builds the case that Donald Trump got the man he wanted ultimately to do what he wanted on the issues he wanted resolved at the Justice Department. And in the short run, let`s be clear, some of bars ploys worked on some people in Washington. We know that Barr was misleading about core findings in the Mueller report that he knew would come out soon.
So how will the other branches of government and the press approach Mr. Barr in the future about the claims that we can`t even see in real time? What about those 14 potential criminal issues that Mueller referred to other prosecutors, 12 of them redacted? What about Barr already making sure he gets waivers so he can get involved in matters outside the Mueller probe that touch on Trump`s aides and re-election?
What about the fact that now the whole world knows that Barr mischaracterized Mueller in those early days? Will there be more skepticism and less official deference the next time he steps up to the podium or releases a letter? Because what`s most important here is not just documenting everything that happened it`s learning from it.
The media made a lot of mistakes in 2016. It doesn`t mean you can fix them all or obsess over them. But as Mr. Barr continues down this path, it is time for not only the Congress but everyone involved in this process because it is a civic democratic process to learn from any past mistakes and as always to approach the government with some skepticism and with some accountability. That`s something we wanted to put on the record tonight.
Now, when we come back, Donald Trump has a tax plan that`s been benefiting the rich. There`s a backlash to inequality and we have live an economic adviser to Obama, Clinton, and Ford. Robert Reich on Trump and what he calls socialism for the rich when we come back.
MELBER: Now, turning to one of the most important news stories in America that often doesn`t even make the news. America`s wealthiest now make 270 times what other workers make. CEO salaries having doubled or tripled. What you see on your screen is they`ve multiplied ten times over the past few decades, worker pay barely budging.
Take Disney CEO Bob Iger who`s $65 million salary is over a thousand times his own employees pay. The company`s winner take all system echoes the world view of the iconic Disney film Cinderella that could only be one prince and one Cinderella and everyone else struggles to get by. Depressing.
Well, tonight, I`m talking about Disney because one of Walt Disney`s heirs Abigail Disney is condemning the naked indecency of Disney handing out its CEO outrageous pay while letting hard-working people sink.
Americans shouldn`t have to face a Cinderella-style predicament here, the rare glass slipper, or getting totally underpaid for all of that hard work. That`s at least the argument of this prominent Disney family member who notes that she doesn`t speak of course, formally for the corporation. I also note Disney has yet to respond to NBC`s request for comments on this controversy.
I`m joined by former Secretary of Labor for President Bill Clinton Robert Reich, a Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His latest book is titled The Common Good. Good evening.
ROBERT REICH, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: Hi, Ari.
MELBER: What do you think of this Disney debate?
REICH: Well, kudos to Abigail Disney. There ought to be more heirs speaking out about what is happening right now, the obscene level of CEO and top executive pay and how Donald Trump and the Trump administration are actually fueling this.
For example, that giant tax cuts that was supposed to lift the wages of most Americans did not lift the wages of most Americans. It did though fuel extraordinary increases in CEO pay like Disney`s, like Bob Iger, and it also led to a huge buyback of stocks and that just artificially pumped up shares of stock.
MELBER: Let me play for you what Senator Warren is saying about all this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because when I was a girl, a full-time minimum-wage job in America would support a family of three. Today, a minimum wage job in America will not keep a mama and a baby out of poverty. That is wrong. It is worth fighting for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you see this as an issue of the decisions corporations are making which was the Disney critique or something that ultimately the government has to better mandate?
REICH: Well, you can`t separate the two, Ari, because big corporations have a lot of political power. And as Abigail Disney said in her open letter and her editorial, the Disney Company took a very, very strong role in trying to keep minimum wages down so that its workers would not get paid more.
Corporate power you know is huge in this country. CEO power is huge and the CEOs of America have a responsibility not just to Americans and not just to American workers, but to the economy as a whole.
Who`s going to be able to afford to go to Disneyland or Disney World or buy Disney products if they`re not being paid enough? This is -- this is a big problem in the American economy overall.
MELBER: Who do you think of the 2020 race is best on these issues? I know you previously we mentioned advise a lot of presidents and endorsed Bernie Sanders in 16.
REICH: Well, I`m very impressed by what Elizabeth Warren is saying. Bernie Sanders has been saying this for years. We have a lot of Democratic candidates who are told. And the public says about the Democratic candidates that they are far-left.
Well, I have news for you. Most Americans actually want a raise. They think the minimum wage should be raised. They think that Medicare for all is a good idea. They think taxes should be raised on the rich. And this is a majority of Republicans not just a majority of Americans.
And so anybody who says the Democratic candidates are too far the left, I think frankly this is the best field and the best collection of candidates the Democrats have ever filled.
MELBER: You think -- this is -- that`s interesting because it is one of these races. People talk about how large it is, it`s also a question of the caliber. Given your White House experience, it`s interesting say you`re so psyched about this race. Mr. Reich, I hope you`ll come back on THE BEAT because I`d love to keep talking you particular about these issues.
REICH: I would be delighted, Ari.
MELBER: Fantastic. When we come back, a special announcement about Jimmy Fallon, Wu-Tang Clan and THE BEAT.
MELBER: Now as promised, I have an announcement that involves The Tonight Show and music specifically Hip Hop and THE BEAT. Allow me to explain. You may have heard of the Wu-Tang Clan. They are a legendary Hip Hop group that has sold over 40 million albums.
Well, number one, they are on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon tonight on NBC. You may want to check that out. They are doing a 25th anniversary of their work. They are also joining me right here on THE BEAT this Friday for a very special fall back Wu-Tang take over.
I can tell you, I will be joined by Ghostface Killah, RZA, U-God, Cappadonna, Masta Killa, and Inspectah Deck discussing their new project of Mics and Men, the anniversary I mentioned, the future of hip hop, and of course, who Wu-Tang wants to fall back. I`m excited, I hope you are too. It`s this Friday on THE BEAT and we`ll be right back.
MELBER: That does it for us. I will be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow live from Washington with THE BEAT and we`ll have a former Watergate prosecutor to break down what Congress can and can`t do and a whole lot more tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. But don`t go anywhere because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END